Battling Bronte Sisters (and Branwell) conversions from Bad Squiddo Little Wolves figures WIP

My Battling Bronte Sisters (and Branwell!) are almost done, painted and based. Photographing them close up always throws up a few area to finish.

When they are not role playing their heroic parts in their juvenilia ImagiNations of Glass Town, Angria, Gaaldine and Gondal, they are all of course battling with the Dark Forces of Yarkshire folklore.

Such tales were told to them at an impressionable young age by their Haworth born servant Tabby Ackroyd.

This is part of my ongoing Bronte ImagiNations gaming project

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/gaming-the-bronte-family-imaginations-of-glasstown-angria-gondal-and-gaaldine/

These green skinned creatures are boggarts, wild creatures of the Dark Moors and marshes …

boggarts who might have started life as Prince August 25mm homecast Cavemen.

Before you ask, mountain backdrop by Peco, Croft cottage by Lilliput Lane.

How I converted these figures

What started out as two packs of Bad Squiddo ‘Little Wolves’ (youngsters or child sized figures in Annie Norman’s 28mm Amazon Range) have been subtly converted to capture some of the make-believe of children at play.

I thought that they could be painted both as dressed as children role playing games and as heroic figures tackling Dark folkloric forces of Yarkshire.

Distinguishing the sisters is usually done by hair colour, especially in films.

I referred to the famous Bronte portrait by Branwell (centre, who later painted himself out) as well as the recent BBC drama To Walk Invisible for my colour palette.

Reddish hair – Anne – painted in grey with red sash

Brown hair – Emily – painted with longer skirt and green tunic, red belt

Black hair – Charlotte – painted with blue dress and red sash

Clothes – I kept the colour scheme quite dark coloured, sober and practical for parsons’ daughters in wet damp Tropical Yorkshire, even through early Victorians were often more colourful than our image of sober Late Victorians.

The BBC TV drama To Walk Invisible opens with a section of the Bronte children adventuring inside their minds or in their play world, discovering the wooden box of soldiers coming to life, the wooden soldiers that first inspired their play: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/brontes-waterloo-soldiers/

Conversions

Swords were filed down to look more wooden and childlike.

Home made sashes from the dressing up box were attached by PVA glue and tissue paper, to give that dashing military air.

Charlotte (left) and Ann (right) with their PVA and tissue paper sashes. Only late in painting these two figures did I notice that they have a subtle belt section hanging down.

The added sashes or in Branwell and Emily’s case an existing belt sash were painted carmine red to add a dash of martial colour.

This was inspired by the red military sashes and uniform designs in Isabel Greenberg’s Bronte ImagiNations graphic novel Glass Town.

Image: Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town. She uses the same hair colour system.

All paints were Matt Revell Aquacolor Acrylics, starting with a Matt black undercoat.

Faces – in keeping with the overall drab Matt colours of their clothes, boots or clogs etc, I avoided my usual bright gloss colours and toy soldier faces with pink cheek dots etc. Instead I chose a subtle mouth or lip colour ( a trace of carmine red) and a darker flesh using Revell Afrikabraun (or desert brown) instead of flesh.

To add that grungy, muddy feel of children out on the moors or getting mucky playing around the Parsonage, I used a brown shade or wash of Citadel Agrax Earthshade on flesh, faces and folds.

The Branwell ‘problem’

The two packs I bought from Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo were all female.

As I failed to find any suitable 28mm boy figures, I set about converting one of the girl figures into a red haired brother Branwell boy figure.

Filing down an excess of plaited hair, I covered the rest of the luscious plaited locks with an old hooded travelling cape (it were wet, dark and cold up on those moors) made of tissue paper and PVA.

Charlotte (left) with red sash and Branwell (right), showing a flash of red belt.

I considered adding breeches or trousers with tissue paper and PVA but thought that Branwell as a boy was the only one in Victorian times who could get away with bare legs and ankles. The parson’s three surviving daughters probably could not.

Branwell’s poems show a familiarity with the classical and heroic epic, so I painted him bare legged, just wearing his ankle boots. His trouser legs are probably rolled up and he is wearing an old smock to look like a classical hero with tunic and cape. All make-believe or possibly real, playing around with that dual use notion.

Branwell (left) and Charlotte (right). Branwell’s cloak hood needs defining by shadow.

Basing

Basing is onto 1 penny MDF bases from Warbases, with PVA used to fix a rough mix of grassy flock and fine Cornish beach sand to suggest the moors. Appropriate enough as the Bronte children’s mother was born and grew up in Penzance, not far from the source beach in Cornwall.

Hopefully gritty and northern enough? Until I can go up on the moor and gather some proper Yarkshire grit and dirt.

Battling the Bronte Sisters

These figures are great for duelling games using simple ‘parry and lunge’ (Gerard de Gre) dice or card rules from Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/duelling-in-the-sandpit-lunge-cut-and-stop-thrust/

Allocate as many life, health or wound points as you wish to each character – Bronte sister, Boggart, Gytrash or Shuck the Black Dog etc. – and play.

Winner gets health points back or victory life points awarded, you decide.

Kaptain Kobold simplified these Gerard de Gre rules for me into dice throws, speedy enough to resolve melee.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/more-duelling-inspiration-mexicans/

Such games proved short and brutal, mostly involving fast melee, using the Kaptain Kobold modification or d6 dice version of Gerard De Gre’s Lunge Cut and Stop Thrust rules for melee or duelling.

1&2 Hit on Attacker (attacker loses one point)

3 – Both Hit (lose one point each)

4 – Both  Miss

5&6 Hit on Defender (defender loses one point)

Some of Tabby’s Gritty Northern Yarkshire folklore to be going in with

Boggarts, boggles and others

https://www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/visiting/see-and-do/land-of-myths-and-legends

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Yorkshire_folklore

https://www.foyles.co.uk/blog-folklore-of-the-yorkshire-moors

https://www.sykescottages.co.uk/blog/6-yorkshire-folktales-to-discover/

Lots more to be discovered …

How they arrived in the quirky packaging of Bad Squiddo

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/10/28/battling-little-bronte-wolves-arrive-from-bad-squiddo-and-we-raised-the-money-to-save-the-bronte-manuscripts-too/

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 21 November 2021

B.P.S.

Interesting History Extra article from a few years back by Emma Butcher https://www.historyextra.com/period/victorian/the-brontes-at-war-how-charlotte-and-branwell-brought-waterloo-into-their-drawing-room/

Battling Little Bronte Wolves arrive from Bad Squiddo! And we raised the money to save the Bronte manuscripts too …

My battling little Bronte Wolves have arrived, and are already slugging it out in the role playing games of their “Tropical Yarkshire” ImagiNations of Glass Town, Angria, Gondal and Gaaldine.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/10/26/little-wolves-bronte-sisters-vignette-or-potential-gaming-figures-from-bad-squiddo-games/

I haven’t even painted them yet and they are already hard at it … Charlotte, Emily, Ann and Branwell – knock it off!

Any parcel from Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo is always a joy … and a mystery. What strange little quirky extras will it contain?

Previously I’ve had tiny metal guinea pig figures, a herbal fruit tea bag …

and today, a cool Sk8ter Pig Angel sticker.

As I’m a little too old and too easily breakable for falling off a skateboard now, I shall bestow it on my Spla-Fiti Skater Graffiti gangs game as a huge piece of street art on the side of a building.

Great fast return of post and excellent quirky customer service from Bad Squiddo, as good as that of Peter Laing in the 1980s? I’m reminded of this, as I catalogue and blog my collection of these my first 15mm metal figures ahead of their Fiftieth anniversary in October 1972 / 2022

The other great news today …

Just days ago it wasn’t looking good with over £12K to raise …

A few days ago it was struggling past half way with under a week to go to raise the £25K from the public by the end of October.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/10/26/gamers-readers-help-save-the-brontes-imaginations-manuscripts-for-the-nation-and-the-bronte-parsonage-donate-to-save-the-honresfield-library-collection/

We smashed it with three days to go!

Thanks to those blog readers who passed on the Just Giving link or donated from your war chests!

A fitting tribute to these first female Role Playing Gamers, historical or fantasy ImagiNations gamers!

Missed giving? You can still donate. More money is always welcome at the Bronte Parsonage Museum / Friends of the National Libraries to secure, conserve and display such Bronte manuscripts …

Now off to paint those Little Bronte Wolves, if they can stop squabbling and scrapping long enough … I know just how their father Patrick Bronte felt. “Martha, control these children!”

More on this blog page of my Bronte inspired ImagiNations gaming here:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/gaming-the-bronte-family-imaginations-of-glasstown-angria-gondal-and-gaaldine/

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 28 October 2021

Little Wolves – Bronte Sisters vignette or potential gaming figures from Bad Squiddo games?

On their way in the post, I have on order two packs of 28mm “Little Wolves” (Amazons range) from Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo Games.

These will represent each of the three Bronte sisters in combat “role playing” in their fictional ImagiNations of Gondal, GlassTown, Angria and Gaaldine.

Unpainted castings, sculpted by Alan Marsh

This will provide me the three sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne – and one spare (a friend?)

This should give me a focus for #FEMBruary 2022 – Each February, miniature or figure painters and gamers choose to paint or model believable female miniatures as part of a challenge by fantasy gamer and modeller Imperial Rebel Ork.

I will look around for a suitable brother Branwell 28mm figure, once I have ‘met’ his sisters. To me, he is usually portrayed on screen as Naughty Norman Price of Ponty Pandy, straight out of Fireman Sam.

Naughty Norman Price of Pontypandy or Branwell Bronte of Haworth, resting on a drystone wall ? Image source: https://firemansam.fandom.com/wiki/Norman_Price

Being a figure converter and tinkerer, an improvised tissue paper sash or two might feature to flesh out the girls’ ImagiNations uniforms, inspired by Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town.

Isabel Greenberg’s superb Glass Town graphic novel shows the Bronte sisters and brother in their ImagiNations uniforms.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/24/the-bronte-sisters-and-brothers-imaginations-isabel-greenbergs-glass-town-and-annie-norman-bad-squiddo-female-figures/

Not just a diorama piece?

I can use the three duelling sisters (and brother and friend) with the ‘parry and lunge’ duelling rules from Donald Featherstone’s Skirmish Wargaming:

2017 duelling and Bronte entry on my sister blog, Pound Store Plastic Warriors

These simple duelling game rules can be found at:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/duelling-in-the-sandpit-lunge-cut-and-stop-thrust/

I can easily see these fighting sisters being up and at ’em, duelling against other fantasy or historical figures in roughly 28mm scale – zombies, skeletons, regency dandies and assorted Bronte ImagiNations bad guys in Pride Prejudice and Zombies style – as this slides into gothic, RPG or fantasy gaming…

Bad Squiddo Figures

I have previously enjoyed painting Bad Squiddo figures of Land Girls for my ‘boycraft’ entry for my local flower and veg show, crafts section in 2019.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/huzzah-for-boycraft-flower-show-craft-success/

Blog Post Script

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/10/26/gamers-readers-help-save-the-brontes-imaginations-manuscripts-for-the-nation-and-the-bronte-parsonage-donate-to-save-the-honresfield-library-collection/

There are just five days left to raise the rest of the £25K needed to save some precious Bronte Manuscripts through Just Giving

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/honresfield-library

No Mixed Bathing (FEMbruary 2021)

Crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog – a wash and brush up for the new 54mm BMC Plastic Army Women figures, prior to the FEMbruary believable female figure painting challenge (started by Alex at Lead Balloony)

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2021/02/01/no-mixed-bathing-fembruary-2021/

As FEMbruary back up, I also have some lovely Bad Squiddo WW2 Pigeoneers.

Not too late to join in … grab a female figures and join in!

Crossposted by Mark Man of TIN, 1 February 2021

The Bronte Sisters and Brother’s ImagiNations – Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town and Annie Norman Bad Squiddo female figures

Annie Norman’s Votes for Famous Women! Baggy’s Cave – Facebook group 24 January 2021

Annie Norman at her Bad Squiddo official Facebook Group Baggy’s Cave is running an interesting poll about which historical female figures that gamers, mini painters and collectors would like to pledge towards or see produced in future by Bad Squiddo.

I thought of the Bronte Sisters (and brother Branwell) who were pioneering Role Playing Gamers in the 1830s through their juvenile fictions or ImagiNations of Glass Town, Gondal and Angria, inspired by a gift of some wooden toy soldiers.

These have been a great stimulus for my gaming to continuing or exploring these sketched out but sketchy Bronte ImagiNations

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/gaming-the-bronte-family-imaginations-of-glasstown-angria-gondal-and-gaaldine/

The fragments that have survived of these ImagiNations as we have mentioned before in Bronte posts are somewhat confusing but I found that Isabel Greenberg’s charming graphic novel version Glass Town straightens or smoothed many of these story and character fragments out.

I loved Isabel Greenberg’s drawings of these four Brontes in the same Regency / early Victorian costumes as their ImagiNations characters. You can see an example of such pages of Isabel’s work here on the interesting US based Solrad comics website:

Red-haired Branwell and his sisters https://solrad.co/preview-glass-town-isabel-greenberg

Great uniforms https://solrad.co/preview-glass-town-isabel-greenberg

Annie Norman’s Bad Squiddo figures are usually 28mm. I think that Bronte figures would be excellent figures – and even better if there was a set in ImagiNations uniforms and a shadow set as they were in real life portraits, always useful as Early Victorian Civilians.

Dual Use figures – saves costs, extends their play value and their potential market of buyers, as well as the Haworth Yorkshire tourism, the Bronte Fan and literary market worldwide.

With this flag these are classic Airfix ACW confederate infantry

Adding Bronte ImagiNations command or character personality figures means that with some simple dual flagging, a Napoleonic or Colonial 19th Century unit instantly becomes an ImagiNations one.

The Bronte sisters and Branwell grew up in an age of conflict in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, during a young Queen Victoria’s expanding Empire and Charlotte living up to the Crimean War. Their tragic deaths at a relatively young age meant they were all dead ten years before the American Civil War.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/21/man-of-tin-blogvent-calendar-day-21-angria-rebooted/

You can see this dual flagging in use here, saving time, storage, figures and painting costs:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/adamstown-or-angria-vintage-airfix-acw-repaired/

Arise Angria! Just add my Bronte ImagiNations flag design of a rising sun on red background

The same dual flagging works at 15mm with the addition of an Angrian flag bearer to my Peter Laing mixed ACW and ECW unit figures seen here seeing off Ashantee Warriors and rogue Highlanders in the ‘Tropical Yorkshire’ forest of the Brontes’ fevered Imaginations:

Bronte ImagiNations, Peter Laing figures, Featherstone’s Close Wars rules, Heroscape hexes … happy man!

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/20/a-skirmish-in-angria-close-little-wars-rules/

After a mad few minutes “Bronte Fan Bombing” the comments section of Baggy’s Cave on Facebook a little, I wondered what if Annie Norman and the Bad Squiddo Facebook folk don’t choose the Brontes as special figures?

I might have to scratch around in 20mm Airfix for Waggon Train women, both bare headed or in bonnets, and the Robin Hood / Sherwood Forest sets (Maid Marian on horseback!) to find suitable Bronte Sisters figures in uniform. I would have to do the same for my few Peter Laing 15mm civilian females.

And for 54mm, we start off with plucky Kate McGuffin, ‘daughter of the Fort’, in the Gondal Forests of Gondal and Pacific coasts of North Generica (America) … https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/28/a-romantic-walk-in-the-forest-interrupted-the-skirmish/

Not forgetting Celia Rees’ great young adult novel called Glass Town Wars,

if you want to add djinn, faeries, fantasy and Ancients to the Regency Napoleon Bronte ImagiNations – oh and the odd helicopter gunship ….

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/31/glass-town-wars-by-celia-rees-a-gaming-modern-take-on-the-bronte-imaginations/

Nor forgetting the Bronte Sisters Power Up dolls (spoof advert of action figures that sadly never made it into production) https://youtu.be/-NKXNThJ610

Who could resist? Vote for the Brontes!

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 24 January 2021

In the Teeth of the Enemy: Christmas Cracker Scrap Terrain

Unusual shelter for 2/3 of my 28mm Russian army from Bad Squiddo’s WW2 Women range

Enjoy recycling your Christmas cracker scrap this year!

Crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog by Mark Man of TIN 23 December 2020:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2020/12/23/in-the-teeth-of-the-enemy-more-unusual-scrap-terrain/

Support Smaller Figure Companies: Annie Norman and Bad Squiddo Pigeoneers of WW2

Always a personal touch, last time a herbal tea bag, this time a Dr Carrot doodle by Annie and Co.

My Bad Squiddo order arrived a day or two ago. I unpacked and checked it ready for the next 2021 Spring Flower Show in the Village Hall.

https://badsquiddogames.com

Always a pleasure to see the lively and stylish quality of the graphics on all the Bad Squiddo packaging, as I posted about back in 2018:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/fembruary-3-annie-normans-bad-squiddo-land-girl-picnic-and-a-cuppa/

I don’t usually go to wargames shows as there are none that near me anyway.

I know that not attending these shows due to the pandemic closures has affected lots of manufacturers, big and small. I thoroughly support someone’s suggestion on their blog or Facebook forum that we should buy what we would have browsed and bought at a show. Many figure companies that have not mothballed during the pandemic have been doing their best to keep going through their online shop offer.

In addition to the small purchases that I make throughout the year to put away for Christmas to help my family out on the difficult task of what to buy me as a gift, I have bought ahead of time these beautiful and unusual Bad Squiddo female Pigeoneers of WW2 and pigeon baskets.

I don’t game in 28mm. These will get painted up as part of my #FEMbruary female figure painting challenge for 2021.

They should do well as a possible painting diorama vignette entry on the next Spring Flower Show (this year’s show was another casualty of Lockdown). The wonderful Doctor Carrot and Potato Pete figures are for another future project but could also form an alternative Spring flower show entry in the mixed craft section?

The last 2019 Flower Show diorama to showcase or promote ManCraft or Boycraft in a mostly female art and craft section was Annie’s Land Girls, a tribute to her Land Army Nan. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/huzzah-for-boycraft-flower-show-craft-success/

When I posted this in Baggy’s Cave the Bad Squiddo Facebook fan group, it made Annie Norman cry!

Whoops. I made Annie Norman cry. I didn’t think the gloss toy soldier painting was that bad. 🙂

Sorry Annie! Bad Squiddo – a great smaller ‘mini’ company to support. Annie Norman does a very relaxed and informal visual Sunday coffee morning hangout on YouTube and there is also the Baggy’s Cave Facebook group.

In future posts, I will share some more Christmas stowings away of a small Infantry skirmish sized order from Paul at Early War Miniatures Dutch and Danish 1940 range in 20mm and a patrol or two of Sergeants Mess Boy Scouts also in 20mm (1:72 metal).

Support your favourite Miniature makers – buy early for Christmas. Or now …

Why? Because you’re worth it! They need the cash flow. It’s our gaming version of the government “eat out to help out” scheme for restaurants in the U.K.

Watch this space.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 9 August 2020.

Women Soldiers – Girl’s Own Paper Article 1893

As part of FEMbruary 2020, here’s an interesting article on Women Soldiers from a random edition of the Girl’s Own Paper that I once owned, dated November 4th 1893

G.O.P. was sister to the Boy’s Own Paper – I wonder what their boy’s take on an article about Woman Soldiers would be?

The opening page with herald – Taran Tara!

A Victorian take on women in the military:

Column 3

Article written by Laura Alex. Smith, Girl’s Own Paper November 4th 1893

The Dahomey Amazons featured in my FEMbruary blogpost of 2018: https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/more-dahomey-amazons/

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/colonial-amazons-women-soldiers-of-dahomey-and-siam/

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 27 FEMbruary 2020

This is the GOP edition that this Women Soldiers article came from.

And for good measure, a fine military looking gent  in GOP, December 3rd 1887:

Huzzah for Boycraft – Flower Show Craft Success!

 

3A3AA662-A3A1-4EC4-879D-8491850CA962.jpeg
I noticed the Land Army badge symbol of the harvested wheat sheaf is picked up in the Land Girl declining against the wheat sheaf on the right. Unplanned!

A success for boycraft at my local village spring flower show!

My 28mm Bad Squiddo Miniatures WW2 Land Girls received Third Prize in the Miscellaneous (Adult) Crafts.

I was quietly pleased as it is  the first time I’ve entered, having noticed a lack of male competitors in many sections last year.  My Land Girls had good stiff competition in their Miscellaneous Crafts Class 96 against serious traditional crafts like stained glass  and felt art / making.

F4D2E534-0CB6-436E-9FC0-6F15CCCBC854
The Land Girls in preparation …

I wasn’t sure how a military subject would go down in the craft section of a flower show, so chose something appropriate to the  horticultural theme and the local area. I’m sure the local Land Girls came in for dances in our Village Hall, which opened like many after the First World War.

I wasn’t sure how my shiny gloss toy soldier painting style would go down, whether people would expect something more ‘Matt’ and earthy.

The judges wrote on the entry slip “So detailed and a wonderful sentiment. Thank you for entering” as I had personalised it as a tribute to Land Girls who served and trained in the area I live in. That’s good enough for me  – one of the judges got what I was trying to do.

To create a context for the women at work, I added some simple brown  felt strips over coffee stirrers to be the rows for spuds (potatoes) being planted.

It has been overcast and stormy, not the best weekend of constant light  for photography, but I wanted to photograph the figures in case they didn’t survive the hustle and bustle of exhibition outside of a display case.

8D0CB4A5-FB75-40CE-8FD9-D4AD1E549438081EA21F-68B3-4ADA-99DF-5628FF6EF3EA

286B13B1-0CEA-46CC-A7BF-2628B6ACFBCA
My favourite of the figures, the Land Girl watching the sky for rain clouds or airplanes.

A previous blog post shows the Land Girls in preparation:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/back-to-the-land-for-fembruary-2019

Annie Norman’s Bad Squiddo range of WW2 and fantasy females can be seen at
https://badsquiddogames.com/shop#!/Bad-Squiddo-Miniatures/c/20887901/offset=0&sort=addedTimeDesc

I’m already thinking about what to enter next year … maybe I will enter some quirky Prince August based 54mm home cast traditional toy soldiers?  Speaking of Prince August moulds and figures – Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Who knows my ‘Land Girls’ might flush out into the open a few more male crafters for next year? This would be great but also more competition.

Thanks to Marvin at Suburban  Militarism blog for his encouragement to enter this  mancraft into the flower show.

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN on  17 March 2019.

The Unwomanly Face of War – book review

d7fc9aca-724d-47e6-8b5b-661c6a8127c3

It’s World Book Day on March 7th and International Women’s Day on March 8th (so unofficially the end of this year’s  painting and modelling challenge #FEMbruary 2019).

To mark these dates I thought that I would review this fascinating military oral history book about Russian women in WW2. It is possibly one of the freshest and most interesting military or social history books that I have read about WW2 for several years since The Taste of War: WW2 and the Battle for Food by Lizzie Collingham (2011).

One of the downsides of reading many WW2 books is having to (skim) read the same material  over and over again in different books, which makes finding new material or insights all the more interesting.

The author Svetlana Alexievich interviewed many Russian servicewomen in the 1970s and 1980s about their war experiences in WW2. She used the same ‘polyphonic’ oral history approach in her other work such as Boys in Zinc (1991) about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which I have not yet read.

The Unwomanly Face of War was published first in Russian in 1985, then translated into English in Moscow in 1988. The book was rejected by several Russian publishers as ‘unsuitable’ history. When this book was first written and the oral histories recorded, Russia was still the old USSR then. Glasnost and Perestroika were still several years away.

Svetlana Alexievich returned to the subject of the book in the early 2002-2004 and added or restored more material, presumably as some forms of Soviet 1980s censorship had changed by then. This is what is featured in this recent translation published by Penguin in 2017 / 2018.

Extracts here https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2016/on-the-battle-lost-by-svetlana-alexievich.html

There are some updated or  presumably new sections in the preface – “what the censors threw out”, “from a conversation with a censor” and “what I threw out” – that are interesting to read in light of this self censorship and official censorship of what is suitable national history.

Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015 for her well curated “polyphonic” oral histories  on Chernobyl, the Russian war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the break up of the USSR, children in WW2 and this unusual book on Russian women at war in WW2.

Why am I reading this book?

I began reading this book as part of my 2019 FEMbruary figure challenge to paint or celebrate your believable female gaming or model miniatures.

The recent 28mm Women of WW2 Bad Squiddo Miniatures range by Annie Norman  had not only female soldiers, tank crews and snipers but also a command group of medics and radio operators, which I chose to paint. They are almost complete as of the end of #FEMbruary.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/fembruary-2019-and-new-bad-squiddo-figures-arrive/

This FEMbruary blogpost also links to some interesting Guardian interviews with Svetlana Alexievich.

Fellow FEMbruary challenge acceptor Marvin at Suburban Militarism chose the Female sniper and spotter pair.

https://suburbanmilitarism.wordpress.com/2019/02/17/fembruary-2019-soviet-sniper-sisters-in-snow/

What makes the book unusual and fascinating is that it is skilfully curated directly from the words of the women themselves, presumably transcribed from tape recordings or letters. Their job roles go beyond the somewhat known – female snipers, the first female fighter pilots – and into the less well known but more stereotypically ‘feminine’ jobs. Surgeon. Nurse. Medical Assistants to infantry or Army Regiments  – armed Combat Medics.

There were plenty of women who worked with or fought with the Partisans. Other women served on the front line as sappers, engineers, mechanics, radio and telegraph engineers.

Even more surprising were the oral histories from women proud of their patriotic service as Laundrywomen.  Mobile bath units. Cooks. Bakers. You forget that someone had to clean and repair uniforms. Cook the bread. Boil the water for soldiers to have a hot bath.

These women are  the equivalent to the unromantic duties of the ATS women in Britain who cooked, cleaned, baked and repaired for the war effort – but often in the war in Russia these jobs took women well into the combat zone and front line.

A quick scan through of the ranks listed after each woman’s name shows everything from Private and Partisan fighter through junior officers (“Lieutenant, Political Commissar of  a Field Laundry Unit” was one of the most unusual) up to high ranking posts such as airforce officers and a rare, almost accidental female Naval Commander post!

The range of jobs listed by the interviewees is fascinating:

Factory Labour Front Worker

Partisan Underground Fighter / Liaison / Medic

Militia Commander

Anti-Aircraft Gunner

Commander MG Platoon

Field Bath and Laundry Unit, Laundress

Searchlight Operator

Construction Unit, Engineer / Sapper / Miner (land mines?)

Art Singer

Armorer

Political Journalist

Rifleman

Radio Operator

Military Journalist

Cook

Logistics / Driver / Traffic Controller

Postal Worker / Communications

Telegrapher / Telephone Operator

Scout

Sniper

Nurse / Nurse Aide / Matron through to Surgeon

Paramedic and Private, Motorised infantry

(Front line) Medical Assistant  to an Army Company or Cavalry Squadron

Airplane Mechanic / Car Mechanic

Pilot / Airforce Captain

Naval Fleet Commander

Crypotographer

Some jobs I had never heard of such as an Aerostat Operator – I had to look this up. Surprsingly such odd or old fashioned sounding jobs are still advertised today! An aerostat (from Greek aer (air) + statos (standing) via French) is a “lighter than air aircraft that gains its lift through the use of a buoyant gas. Aerostats include unpowered balloons and powered airships. Especially with airships, the gasbags are often protected by an outer envelope.” (Wikipedia)

Maybe these aerostat operators are the equivalent of the WAAF girls who handled Barrage Balloons in Britain.  These Aerostat balloons  were known as ‘Pigs’ not just because of their shape but also stubbornly annoying “temperament”. Such balloon girls were immortalised in paint by British war artist Laura Knight. https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/15503

The Unwomanly Face of War sadly has no such illustrations, aside from the striking cover image of Natalya Kravtsova, commander of the 46th Guards Air Regiment, well decorated  ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’. It would have been interesting to have seen wartime photos of these women at work or when they were interviewed in the 1970s and 1980s. However I’m sure a trawl through Soviet wartime art would reveal many Laura Knight style, realist/ Soviet heroic style portrait paintings of Russian servicewomen. Pinterest has many ‘recoloured’ portrait photos of Russian servicewomen, decorated, famous or otherwise.

It is not a pleasant read in parts, dealing plainly with frontline combat, injury and also the atrocities inflicted on Russian civilians.

There is also however friendship, romance, patriotic pride, occasional humour, stoic self sacrifice, postwar denial and a relief at finally being able to tell or record these stories and experiences many years later.

The end of my FEMbruary challenge 2019?

C7D98876-EEA7-4AB6-A1A7-BBF024AECE2F
Bad Squiddo Games website image of 28mm painted Russian Women’s Command figures, sculpted by Alan Marsh .
BCD6BD36-2AEB-4377-A4AA-EC6D871F4973
My almost finished 28mm Bad Squiddo Games Russian Soviet Command – Officer, Field Telephonist and Armed Medic. Gloss paint and gloss varnish style.

I am not sure what use this book would be to wargamers or tabletop gamers who focus on the Eastern Front in WW2 or what they would make of this book.

As I have no intention of gaming the Eastern Front in 28mm, I bought these Bad Squiddo figures more for diorama or vignette purposes. They could potentially be converted to female troops of other nationalities.

Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo Miniatures has a widening range of varied Soviet / Russian Military Women https://badsquiddogames.com/shop#!/WW2

There is an interview about this range with Annie Norman on the Meeples and Miniatures podcast about this Women of the Red Army range  with Annie’s further book recommendations: https://meeples.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/meeples-miniatures-episode-168-bad-squiddo-games-women-of-the-red-army/

Just as many of the roles undertaken in wartime in Russia were mirrored in some ways in Britain in WW2, there’s a Bad Squiddo British Women of WW2 range. I have also painted some more of Annie Norman’s Land Girls from her Bad Squiddo Women of WW2 range as my challenge for FEMbruary 2019.  https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/back-to-the-land-for-fembruary-2019

Blogposted for International Women’s Day (8th) and World Book Day (7th) March 2019 by Mark, Man of TIN blog.